Director: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Jon Bernthal, Gil Birmingham, and Julia Jones.
Synopsis: Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a wildlife officer who finds the body of an 18-year-old woman on an American Indian reservation in snowy Wyoming. When the autopsy reveals that she was raped, FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) arrives to investigate. Teaming up with Lambert as a guide, the duo soon find that their lives are in danger while trying to solve the mystery of the teen’s death.
When you hear that Taylor Sheridan, the writer of films such as Sicario (2015) and Hell or High Water (2016) is directing a new mystery/crime thriller, it’s hard not to get excited. Sheridan has made a name for himself as one of the most prosperous writers in Hollywood, having written two of the most critically acclaimed films in recent years, and Wind River, which marks his entry into directing, is a great display of Sheridan’s capabilities as a filmmaker.
This might not be his first foray into directing, but Wind River represents Sheridan’s approach to the major leagues, and I couldn’t think of a better way to properly introduce yourself as a Hollywood director. Wind River is a beautifully pieced together film, with more than enough twists and turns to grip an audience. Even more than the gripping storytelling, it’s Sheridan’s ability to write great dialogue and create human characters that make Wind River stand out as a stellar piece of cinema. Without great characters, brilliant dialogue, and an insanely dark setting, the heart-pounding mystery and intense stand-offs (of which there are a few) wouldn’t be worthwhile.
Equal to Sheridan’s script, it’s the performances from Jeremy Renner (Arrival) and Elizabeth Olsen (Captain America: Civil War) that push Wind River towards excellence. Renner brings an unsurprising level of depth to his character, delivering some exceptionally heart-wrenching scenes alongside some of the most badass sequences of the year. Renner is building himself up as one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, and this is possibly his greatest performance yet. As for Olsen, the actor has proven herself to be one of the best female performers in Hollywood, and although Renner is the films stand out, Olsen delivers a brilliant performance that shouldn’t be overlooked.
As with Hell Or High Water and Sicario, the setting is a major part of Sheridan’s style. This time around, Sheridan swaps the desert for a mountain and surrounds his characters with a freezing landscape, that makes the mysterious narrative even more terrifying. Not only does the snow make for some beautiful cinematography and visual style (snow and blood look great together), but Sheridan seamlessly brings the setting into his narrative, allowing the snow to tell its own story and take the characters on an endlessly mysterious adventure.
Between the thrilling stand-offs and haunting cinematography, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ soundtrack is an added incentive to remember and fall in love with this film. In some of Sheridan’s most heartbreaking sequences, the score beautifully depicts what the characters are feeling throughout the movie. That same score, however, can adapt to any situation and often turns into one of the darkest and most memorable scores of the year.
It’s not often that I find it difficult to find a film in a movie, but it’s a testament to Sheridan’s skill as a director and the quality of acting that the only issue I had with Wind River was the pacing, which only rarely popped up as a problem in the final act of the film.
Wind River is a gripping entry in Taylor Sheridan’s filmography and throws the director into the major leagues, among some of the most talented directors in Hollywood. Wind River is a haunting and beautiful experience that seduces an audience into a character-driven mystery and isn’t afraid to turn the characters, setting, and narrative upside-down. Between excellent writing, disturbing cinematography, and a chilling setting, Sheridan has created an intense and smart crime thriller with equally impressive performances.
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